Thursday, November 2, 2017

Construction of new Center for Water Studies set to begin at Cuyamaca College

Cuyamaca College is set to begin construction on a state-of-the-art Center for Water Studies aimed at training the next generation of industry professionals to manage and operate California’s complex water and wastewater systems.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the first component of the project – the Field Operations Skills Yard – is scheduled for Nov. 9 at 9:30 a.m. next to the “L” Building at the Cuyamaca College campus, 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway, in Rancho San Diego. When completed, the Field Operations Skills Yard will include a fully operational, above-ground water distribution and an underground wastewater collection system that will enable students to apply their science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge in a learning-by-doing, career-preparation environment.
“Cuyamaca College is a leader in workforce training for the water and wastewater industry, and the Center for Water Studies will further strengthen our status as a trailblazer in the profession,” said Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes.
A California Community College Strong Workforce grant is providing $192,000 for the Field Operations Skills Yard. Additional contributions for the above-ground network of pipes, pumps, valves, meters and other equipment is being provided by donations from the waterworks industry. A National Science Foundation grant is providing $72,000.
The Field Operations Skills Yard is projected to be completed in time for spring semester classes.

Donald Jones
“These fully operational water and wastewater systems will be used to replicate many of the entry-level tasks employees perform as they begin their careers in the water and wastewater industry,” said Don Jones, the National Science Foundation grant manager who has helped spearhead the creation of Center for Water Studies. “It’s the culmination of a many years long pipe dream.”

The second component of the Center for Water Studies involves relocating Cuyamaca College’s Water & Wastewater Technology program to a renovated L Building, which sits next to the Field Operations Skill Yard and which will be transformed to house, among other things, a water quality analysis classroom and a shop area for backflow prevention and cross-connection control training. In addition, two other classrooms will be remodeled to accommodate approximately 40 water and wastewater technology students each.
Renovating the L Building will cost approximately $1 million and will be funded through the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District’s Proposition V, which voters approved in 2012. Renovation is set to begin in the early spring, and facilities should be available next fall.
The National Science Foundation grant, which totals almost $900,000, will cover the cost of Cuyamaca College working with the Grossmont Union High School District and water industry experts to develop contextualized lesson plans related to water and wastewater management skills for local high school science teachers to use in their classrooms. High school instructors will be able to participate in water-related activities at the Center for Water Studies as early as next summer. The grant also will help develop career pathways that recruit veterans, women and students from underrepresented communities into water and wastewater management careers.
The timing for the Center for Water Studies couldn’t be better. The Water Research Foundation and the American Water Works Association anticipate that water utilities will lose up to half their workforce over the next decade as an aging workforce opts to retire. Water and wastewater agencies in currently employ up to 5,000 in San Diego County and provide more than 60,000 jobs statewide. Water and wastewater treatment and system operators earn, on average, an annual wage of more than $66,000 annually in San Diego County, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Center for Water Studies evolved through discussions with the Cuyamaca College Water & Wastewater Technology Program Industry Advisory Committee, which comprises water industry professionals from the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department, the San Diego County Water Authority, Helix Water District, Padre Dam Water District, the City of Escondido Utilities Department, the Olivenhain Water District, and others.
The Cuyamaca College’s Water & Wastewater Technology program is the oldest and most comprehensive program serving the water and wastewater industry in the California Community College system. It has delivered water and wastewater management education for more than a half a century and has a successful track record of administering grants that expanded the capacity of the California Community Colleges system to partner with the water and wastewater industry. It recently secured two Workforce Star Awards from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, one of only four community colleges statewide to earn two awards in a single workforce development program.